Providers are seeing more cases of fatty liver disease in conjunction with the rise in childhood obesity.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common type of chronic liver disease in children and young people, and providers are seeing more cases of this condition in conjunction with the rise in childhood obesity. NAFLD is more prevalent in Asian and Hispanic ethnicities.
What is fatty liver disease?
NAFLD is a liver condition caused by too much fat stored in the liver, which can be due to excessive fat and calorie consumption.
Risk factors include obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides. It is often asymptomatic, but children may experience fatigue or pain and discomfort in the upper right abdomen.
How is it related to high blood pressure?
Studies show that fatty liver disease is associated with metabolic syndrome and increased blood pressure, including the presence of prehypertension and hypertension.
“Some parents initially may be hesitant when adopting a healthy diet as preventive measure, thinking that this condition is an ‘adult disease.’ Ignoring early intervention methods could cause a child to develop obesity, fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, elevated blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes,” said Maria F. Nota, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Germantown. “All of these conditions are childhood risk factors for adult cardiovascular disease.”
If left untreated, fatty liver disease may develop into a more aggressive condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which involves liver damage similar to heavy alcohol use, including liver inflammation, scarring/cirrhosis or liver failure. It also can lead to metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Norton Children’s Medical Group
Our pediatricians with Norton Children’s Medical Group will monitor your child’s health and offer strategies to prevent conditions like fatty liver disease. Find a pediatrician and schedule a wellness check today.
There is no medication that will treat fatty liver disease, and weight loss is the most effective way to prevent and potentially reverse the disease, along with adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
Maintain a healthy weight. If a child is overweight or obese, reduce calories, high-fat foods and sugar intake. Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats.
Exercise regularly. Incorporate exercises that increase the heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes, at least three to five days per week.
Follow the 0-1-2-5 rule:
0 = Zero sugary drinks
1 = 1 hour of physical activity per day
2 = 2 hours or less of screen time per day
5 = 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day